Leeks Vinaigrette with Walnuts

This simple and traditional dish is as delicious as a more sophisticated hors d’oeuvre.  This dish is a common find in Bistro cuisine, as by definition Bistro cooking must be easy, simple, fast and be able to be prepared in advance so it can be served quickly.  My cooking instructor from the Ritz once said that the French inherited the term Bistro in the time of Russian occupation of Paris, where ‘bistro’ means ‘quickly’, when Russians wanted to have a meal under two hours. At home, “Poireaux Vinaigrette” was a classic in my mom’s cooking repertoire.  Served as a common started for a lunch or a perfect opener for entertaining, it is also a great time saver as it can be prepared ahead of time.

20131020-091839.jpgCombining the leeks with walnuts and shallots adds texture and complimentary tastes. Look for young tender leeks as they’ll have a more delicate flavor. If you don’t find young leeks and the dark green parts are too tough, you can simply cut them off and use only the white/light green parts of the leeks for this recipe.  Then you can always use the dark trimmings sautéed or added to vegetable stock.

20131020-091926.jpgIngredients for 4 servings:
2 leeks
1/2 shallot
1/2 cup whole walnuts
2 tsp grainy mustard from Dijon ‘moutarde à l’ancienne’
2 tsp white wine vinegar
5 Tbsp olive oil (or more as needed)
Freshly ground sea salt and black pepper
A few parsley springs

20131020-092532.jpgCut the leeks in half lengthwise and rinse thoroughly to remove any dirt or sand that might be stuck between the leaves or on the bottom roots, where the leaves are attached. Trim the bottom roots slightly making sure the leaves remain attached.  You can further trim the roots after the leeks are cooked.

20131020-092608.jpgTrim the dark green tips as much as needed to keep only the more tender parts.

20131020-092653.jpgBring a large pot of salted water to a boil and plunge the leeks, bottom of the leeks in first.

20131020-092759.jpgAs soon as the leeks become soft enough to be more malleable (within the first minute), submerge the entire leaves and cook until tender, about 8-10 minutes.

20131020-092846.jpgRemove the leeks from the pot with tongs and set in a colander to drain.  Save the broth for soups or cooking lentils, quinoa, etc.

20131020-092948.jpgOnce the leeks have drained completely, set them on paper towels and pat them dry to absorb any excess water.

20131020-093056.jpgPeel and chop the shallot finely.

20131020-093247.jpgPlace the mustard, vinegar, salt and pepper in a small bowl and mix thoroughly to blend all ingredients.

20131020-093328.jpgWhisk in the olive oil and add in the chopped shallots.

20131020-093503.jpgFinish trimming the root ends of the leeks.

20131020-093551.jpgArrange a leek onto each plate.

20131020-093708.jpgChop the parsley and walnuts.

20131020-093753.jpgPout the vinaigrette generously onto each leek.  Liberally sprinkle with walnuts and parsley. Enjoy!

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Spicy Chickpea Herb Salad

The simplest and fastest to way to make a last minute picnic to go, quick meal for impromptu lunch guests, or side dish/salad to accompany a main dish.

20130705-212427.jpg This recipe includes a variety of herbs as we would use in the south of France for a flavorful meal and also some jalapeño in addition to the garlic for an additional kick the American way.

20130705-212511.jpgingredients:
2lbs cooked chickpeas (if dried, soak them the day before and cook them in salted boiling water)
1 orange pepper (I typically like using red but the red peppers at the market were not organic so I picked an organic one over the color)
1/4 jalapeño pepper
2 garlic cloves
A handful of each herbs: parsley, basil, chives, thyme
1 Tbsp Dijon mustard
1 Tbsp white balsamic vinegar
4 Tbsp grape seed oil
Freshly ground salt and pepper, about 1/4 tsp each
4-5 oz arugula

20130705-213407.jpgStart by mixing the salt, pepper and mustard.

20130705-215259.jpgAdd vinegar and mix well to dissolve mustard.

20130705-215341.jpgPrepare two garlic cloves and 1/4 jjalapeño pepper.

20130705-215428.jpgRemove the white lining and seeds from the jalapeño.

20130706-065736.jpgPeel garlic, slice in half and remove the inner part.

20130707-151744.jpgCrush the garlic and cut the jalapeño in thin stripes.

20130707-151835.jpgChop both finely.

20130707-151937.jpgAdd to the mustard and vinegar.

20130707-152034.jpgMix well and seaside.

20130707-152111.jpgGently remove the thyme leaves from the stems. set aside.

20130707-152153.jpgPrepare parsley leaves and basil leaves by removing the stems and clustering them together, stacking the basil leaves on top of one another.

20130707-152239.jpgChop all the herbs finely, including the chives, parsley and julienne the basil leaves. Set aside

20130707-152320.jpgPrepare the orange pepper by cutting it in half, remove the stem, further cut into quarters and remove the inner white skin and seeds.

20130707-152541.jpgSlice each quarter into strips and dice.

20130707-152647.jpgAdd the grape seed oil to the vinaigrette.

20130707-152741.jpgMix in the orange pepper and let marinate a few minutes.

20130707-152823.jpgAdd the chickpeas and herbs.

20130707-152907.jpgMix thoroughly. The salad can be prepared ahead at this time and refrigerated.

20130707-153007.jpgBefore serving, add arugula. If taking on a picnic pack arugula separately and add at last minute.

20130707-153156.jpgMix the arugula with the other ingredients to ensure it is well coated with the vinaigrette.

20130707-153245.jpgTo serve as a lunch meal, you might add some avocado

20130707-153345.jpgor heirloom tomatoes. Enjoy!

Lemon Basil Broccoli Soup | Vegan

A fragrant and light soup, very simple and quick to make.

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This soup is a favorite for the simplicity of its ingredients and of making it. It is best eaten immediately, to preserve the freshness of its taste.

20130427-213330.jpg Ingredients:
2 heads broccoli
1/2 yellow onion
4 cups water
3 cloves garlic
1 1/2 once fresh basil leaves
3 Tbsp olive oil
Salt to taste

20130428-154941.jpg Cut the broccoli in small pieces and roughly chop the half onion.

20130428-155216.jpgPlace the olive oil in the bottom of the pot on medium heat. When the oil is hot, add the onions and gently cook over medium-low heat for a few minutes.

20130428-155253.jpgAdd the broccoli, water, salt and cover.

20130428-155630.jpgBring to a boil and simmer for about 8-10 minutes, with the cover on.

20130428-155943.jpgMeanwhile, prepare the garlic. Peel the cloves, cut in half and remove the inner stems.

20130428-160101.jpgPlace the basil leaves and garlic in a food processor fitted with a steel blade. Reserve a few of the smaller leaves for decoration.

20130428-161021.jpgProcess until the garlic and basil form a rough paste.

Add the cooked soup and continue to process in batches.

20130428-161405.jpgAdd the lemon juice at this time.

20130428-161514.jpgThe soup should have a slightly rough consistency. Adjust seasoning by adding salt if needed.

20130428-170602.jpgServe in bowls, decorating with lemon zests and a few basil leaves. Enjoy!

Breakfast Quinoa

Delicious, nutritious, high-protein breakfast.

20130412-074222.jpg A great gluten-free alternative to oatmeal, this sweet and fruity quinoa is ideal for breakfast. Spring has been so timid here in Chicago, that we are still using winter fruits this time of year. This is a heartwarming and satisfying dish. Although this dish is best served immediately, if you are pressed for time in the morning, you can prepare it the night before and simply heat it on the stove again.

20130412-074438.jpg Ingredients
3/4 cup red quinoa
3/4 cup white quinoa
2 oranges or 4 mandarins
1 banana
1 large apple
A few prunes
A few dried figs
A few dates
A handful walnuts
2 tsp vanilla extract
1 Tbsp molasses

20130412-205534.jpg Place both red and white quinoa in a large saucepan.

20130412-210006.jpg Cut the dried fruits in thin slices and roughly chop the walnuts.

20130412-210554.jpg Add the dried fruits and walnuts to the quinoa as well as 3 cups of water.

20130412-211456.jpg Bring to a boil and start simmering.

20130412-210857.jpg Meanwhile, prepare the fresh fruits. Peel the banana and oranges . You might leave the skin on the apple, simply cutting it in quarters to easily remove the core.

20130412-211227.jpg Slice all the fresh fruits thinly.

20130412-211824.jpg Add fresh fruits and bring back to a boil.

20130412-212512.jpg Add the vanilla and molasses.

20130412-212806.jpg Cover, turn down the heat and simmer to resume cooking, about another ten minutes or so.

20130412-213444.jpg Check for the consistency. When most of the liquids have been absorbed, turn off the heat and let sit for a couple of minutes before serving.

20130412-213941.jpg Serve in individual bowls with a spring of fresh mint. Bon appetit!

Root Celery and Grapefruit Salad with Fennel and Avocado

A refreshing blend of root vegetables and tangy citrus. Colorful, crisp and appealing, this salad can be served as an appetizer, or at the end of a meal as a finishing note.

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This dish is prepared in the juices of the grapefruit and requires no additional seasoning, simply dressed with the fennel tips. It contains no fats, no salt and is naturally healthy.

20130331-154647.jpg Ingredients:
1 root celery
1 grapefruit
1/2 fennel bulb
1 avocado

Tools:
Mandolin
Serrated knife
Paring knife

20130331-171932.jpg Peel the root celery, making sure to remove all the ripples with a pairing knife until you obtain a smooth surface. Place it firmly on the prongs of the mandolin holder. Fit the mandolin with the smooth blade on the narrower setting.

20130331-172111.jpg Slice the root celery in paper thin disks.

20130331-172210.jpg Prepare the half fennel bulb the same way and set aside.

20130331-172307.jpg Cut the avocado in half, remove the pit and scrape the whole half of the avocado out of its skin with a spoon. Slice each half thinly.

20130331-172816.jpg You can start to assemble the plates by displaying the celeriac slices in an overlapping fashion. Add a few slices of the avocado.

20130331-172911.jpg Prepare the grapefruit by cutting the outer skin around it with a serrated knife all the way down to the flesh. Cut all the way around until the grapefruit flesh is entirely exposed.

20130403-184614.jpg Place the knife by the inner membrane to slice down to the core of the grapefruit.

20130403-184735.jpg Continue cutting on either side of the membranes to free the individual sections of the grapefruit.

20130403-184830.jpgPlace a few slices on top of the celeriac on each plate.

20130403-184850.jpg Arrange a few ribbons of the fennel bulb on top.

20130403-184915.jpg Add a few tips from the fennel branches and squeeze the juices that remain in the inner part of the grapefruit over the celeriac.

20130403-185102.jpg That’s it! Enjoy!